Feb 3, 2020

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! Hope you enjoyed the last football game for a while. Oh wait, never mind, the XFL kicks off on Saturday.

Today's word count: 1,603 words (6 mins)

1 big thing: 🏈 The Chiefs go out on top

Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On a chilly night in Miami, the Kansas City Chiefs caught fire and concluded Super Bowl LIV in signature fashion, coming back from a 10-point deficit to beat the San Francisco 49ers, 31-20.

  • ⭐️ Game MVP: Patrick Mahomes (26/42, 286 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT; nine carries, 29 yards, 1 TD) became the youngest QB to be named Super Bowl MVP, joining Tom Brady as the only ones to do so before turning 25.
  • 🎥 Biggest play: With the Chiefs trailing 20-10 with 7:17 left in the fourth quarter, and facing a third-and-15 from their own 35, Mahomes hit Tyreek Hill on a 44-yard bomb that gave Kansas City something they'd lacked for much of the night: hope. That turned out to be all they needed, kickstarting a 21-0 run to close out the game.
  • 🎉 The drought ends: After a 50-year wait, the Chiefs are champions again. Congratulations to Kansas City. Congratulations to Andy Reid. And congratulations to the state of Kansas — whoops, I mean Missouri.

Quick recap: For much of the game, Mahomes looked positively human and uncharacteristically inaccurate (18/31, 172 yards, 2 INT through 2.5 quarters), and Jimmy Garoppolo was finally living up to his chin.

  • But it was Mahomes who got the last laugh against the 49ers' vaunted defense, improving to 5-0 when trailing by double digits this season (um, that's insane).
  • Meanwhile, Jimmy G (20/31, 219 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) faded down the stretch and overthrew Emmanuel Sanders on a potential game-winning deep ball that will haunt him for years.

What they're saying:

  • Mahomes on Reid: "We wanted to get him that trophy because he deserved it. The work he puts in day in and day out ... I don't think he sleeps. I try to beat him in and I never can. He is someone that works harder than anyone I've ever known, and he deserved [this]. I'm glad I could get that trophy for him."
  • Hill on Mahomes: "He seen it in some guys' eyes, they were getting down, including myself. I was like, 'Man, how are we going to pull this off?' And he was like: '10, you've got to believe, brother. ... It's going to happen, man. I can feel it.' He brought the guys together, and you saw what happened."

The bottom line: The Immaculate Reception. The Helmet Catch. The Philly Special. Oftentimes, the Super Bowl is defined by a single play so memorable that you can't help but give it a nickname.

  • Super Bowl LIV didn't have one of those to remember it by, but it did have a 24-year-old QB and a 61-year-old head coach coming together to snap a 50-year title drought — and that's memorable enough for me.

Go deeper:

2. 🎵 More from the "Big Game"
Giphy

At last year's Super Bowl, Maroon 5's halftime performance made us wish Adam Levine had just stayed on the set of "The Voice." This year, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez reminded us that they're still absolute icons.

Highlights:

  • Shakira showing the world that her hips, in fact, do not lie.
  • J. Lo reprising her Oscar-snubbed role from "Hustlers."
  • Shakira immortalizing herself as a meme.
  • J. Lo revealing a Puerto Rican flag under an American flag cape while singing "Born in the USA."

As for the commercials ... not the strongest batch overall, but the best ones still brought it. Personal favorites?

Bonus: 📸 Photos from Miami
Photo: Nhat V. Meyer/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Andy Reid got his 222nd victory on 02/02/2020 (a rare eight-digit palindrome that reads the same forward and backward), and it was the biggest win of his career. I couldn't be happier for "Big Red."

Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The thrill of victory.

Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

And the agony of defeat ... Three teams in Super Bowl history have forfeited a 10-point fourth quarter lead, and Kyle Shanahan called the offensive plays for two of them. After the 10-minute mark in the fourth quarter, the 2016-17 Falcons and the 2019-20 Niners were outscored a combined 46-0.

3. 🎾 Men's tennis: The Big Three's reign continues
Table: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Novak Djokovic came back from two sets to one down for the first time in a major final to beat Dominic Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and earn his eighth Australian Open crown.

Why it matters: The win allows Djokovic to reclaim the No. 1 ranking from Rafael Nadal and tighten the gap with Nadal and Roger Federer in the race to see who will finish with the most Grand Slam singles titles.

  • Federer (38 years old): 20 titles
  • Nadal (33 years old): 19 titles
  • Djokovic (32 years old): 17 titles

Wild stat: Djokovic (5), Nadal (5) and Federer (3) have won the last 13 men's Grand Slam singles titles dating back to 2017. Their dominance defies all logic. There are no words.

Go deeper: Djokovic solves the mind-body problem to win the Australian Open (New Yorker)

4. 🎾 Women's tennis: Yet another new champ
Table: Danielle Alberti/Axios

21-year-old Sofia Kenin won the Australian Open over the weekend, becoming the youngest American woman to win a major title since 20-year-old Serena Williams won the 2002 U.S. Open.

  • Meet Sofia: Kenin is the daughter of Russian immigrants and grew up in southern Florida, where her prodigious talent and fiery drive attracted the attention of famed coach Rick Macci.
  • What they're saying: "Her timing of the ball is better than anybody I ever taught ... and she can take the ball right off the bounce like a wizard. ... She has a drop shot from another planet. She's the closest thing I think this sport has seen to Martina Hingis," said Macci, per NYT.

Wild stat: While the "Big Three" have won the last 13 men's Grand Slam titles, the much more unpredictable women's game has now seen 11 different winners over the same span.

5. ❤️ Still thinking about Kobe

Photo: Harry How/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant is always present in the Staples Center. That's what 20 seasons, five titles, and two separate jerseys hanging in the rafters yield.

  • But on Friday night, as the Lakers played their first game since Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others tragically died, he sat in every seat.

The ceremony: On a night full of consoling and catharsis, an emotional pregame tribute lasted nearly half an hour, comprising:

  • A five-minute rendition of "Amazing Grace" sung by Usher, as the countless Kobe tributes from around the sports world played on the Jumbotron.
  • Boyz II Men: National anthem
  • Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth: "See You Again"
  • A video about Kobe's life, career, family, and love of the game — set to a live cello performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Ben Hong and narrated by Kobe.
  • The Lakers starting lineup all getting introduced as "Number 24, 6'6", 20th campaign, from Lower Merion High School: Kobe Bryant."
  • And of course, a moving speech by LeBron James: "Tonight, we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we've seen over the past three years, man."

Meanwhile, around the NBA ... the Mamba Mentality shone bright, as Damian Lillard (twice), Kyrie Irving, Eric Gordon and Khris Middleton combined for five 50-point games in seven days. Lillard, in particular, had a preposterous week.

6. 📊 By the numbers
Screenshot: @sabrina_i (Instagram)
  • 🏀 23 triple-doubles: Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu needed just 27 minutes against Colorado to notch her NCAA-record 23rd career triple-double (24-13-10). ... Tonight: No. 3 Oregon at No. 4 UConn (7pm ET, ESPN2)
  • 🏈 5 new Hall of Famers: Troy Polamalu, Edgerrin James, Steve Atwater, Steve Hutchinson and Isaac Bruce were voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, joining 15 coaches, seniors and contributors to make up the special 20-man centennial class.
  • ⛳️ 2 holes in one: Amateur golfer Gary Choyka sank a pair of holes-in-one in the same round. For reference, the odds of an amateur acing a hole are generally listed at 12,5000-to-1. Odds against a second ace in the same round? 67 million-to-1.
  • ⚽️ 73 points: During the 1996-97 Premier League season, Manchester United won the league with 75 points. Liverpool currently has 73 points — with 13 weeks left.
  • 💵 $721 million: The SEC generated $721 million in revenue for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which resulted in ~$45.3 million being distributed to each of the 13 member schools that received full shares. (Ole Miss didn't get a full share because its football team was banned from postseason play.)
7. Feb. 3, 2008: 🏈 "The Helmet Catch"
Photo: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

12 years ago today, Eli Manning connected with David Tyree for one of the most iconic catches in NFL history, as the Giants beat the Patriots 17-14 in SB XLII.

  • What you might not remember: Manning had to evade three tackles before unleashing his prayer downfield to Tyree.
  • What you definitely remember: Four plays later, with 39 seconds left, Manning found Plaxico Burress in the end zone for the go-ahead — and ultimately game-winning — TD, putting an end to the Patriots' perfect season.

The big picture: Thanks to Manning, Tyree, and Burress, the 1972 Dolphins remain the only undefeated team in NFL history.

Go deeper:

8. The Ocho: 🌽 Darnold tops Jones in cornhole
Daniel Jones (left) and Sam Darnold. Courtesy: American Cornhole League

New York's two QBs, Daniel Jones (Giants) and Sam Darnold (Jets), went head-to-head in cornhole over the weekend, with Darnold and his partner emerging victorious.

  • The backdrop: The promotional event was part of the American Cornhole League's first national tournament of the year, with top players from across the country competing for over $40,000 in payouts.
9. 🏈 NFL trivia

Kyler Murray and Nick Bosa were named the 2019 offensive and defensive rookies of the year on Saturday.

  • Question: The last time the No. 1 and No. 2 picks were named offensive and defensive rookies of the year was following the 2011 season. Can you name both players?
  • Hint: They faced each other in the Super Bowl a few years later.

Answer at the bottom.

P.S. ... Shoutout Lamar Jackson for becoming just the second unanimous MVP in NFL history.

10. Vote: ⚾️ Is he batting left or right handed?
Source: Twitter

Click to vote:

Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Not going to Disneyland!" Baker

Trivia answer: Cam Newton and Von Miller